From meeting new people to experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells – is there anything more exciting or rejuvenating than a break from the day-to-day mundanity? Traveling is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a new culture, setting, or way-of-life, but the best part is this: you don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy what this world has to offer.
Whether your journey takes you across your own city, to an unexplored part of your state, or even to the other side of the world, there’s no doubt you will still learn a lot about your surroundings – and yourself – along the way.
While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:
More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being closeby definitely has its benefits.
For some people, Newark is just a place you fly through — or into, on your way to New York City. But those who are lucky enough to stay and play get to learn about a city that’s a delight all its own. Here are some of our very favorite things to see, do, and explore in Newark, New Jersey.
*Note: Some of the suggestions may not be doable due to coronavirus closures, but keep this list handy for when things start opening back up more! Be sure to check individual pages for specific operation details.
While this area might be better known for urban sprawl than countryside and outdoor adventure, there are actually tons of incredible state and national parks and preserves in the Newark, New Jersey vicinity. Here are some worth putting on your “to-visit” list.
Thanks to its one-of-a-kind geographical location, Cheesequake State Park offers visitors the opportunity to see a transitional ecosystem that’s not replicated exactly anywhere else on earth. In one trip, you can go from saltwater to freshwater marshes, while also visiting hardwood forests, a cedar swamp, and pine barrens. This park is especially popular amongst hikers and fisherfolk!
A 37-acre, day-use facility, Edison State Park is located in the Menlo Park neighborhood of the New Jersey town of the same name. The street it’s located on was the first in the world to be illuminated by electric light bulbs, and the park is home to Thomas Edison Tower as well as a small museum hosting some important information and artifacts from the man’s life and era.
Just half an hour away from the urban sprawl of Newark, the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge provides a home for a variety of waterfowl, such as mallards, American black ducks, and buffleheads, as well as almost 40 species of mammals, ranging from white-tailed deer and red foxes to racoons, squirrels, and river otters. The swamp offers 8 miles of designated hiking trails for you to get out on your own two feet and perhaps encounter some of these critters!
Consisting of more than 1,100 acres of New Jersey countryside, Hacklebarney State Park offers incredible views of, and access to, the Black River, as well as plenty of landside diversions. Whether you’re there to hike, picnic, fish, or simply marvel in this unparalleled outdoor space, a trip to this park is sure to leave you feeling satisfied and refreshed.
Originally designated back in 1913, Washington Rock State Park enjoys the distinction of being one of the oldest such parks in New Jersey. Along with offering visitors a nice landscape to relax and picnic in, this park also preserves and commemorates the fact that this unique scenic overlook was used by George Washington to monitor British troops all the way back in 1777.
This part of New Jersey — not to mention nearby New York — offers one of the most diverse and vibrant restaurant scenes in the world. Here are a few of the very best restaurants to try out in Newark, no matter what you’re in the mood for.
If there’s one place on earth you should be able to get fantastic Italian food, it’s New Jersey — and although there are many restaurants to choose from, Luigi’s Italian Tradition is likely to be high on any local’s must-eat list. Serving up delicious favorites in a classic atmosphere, this restaurant is also available for private parties and events, such as birthdays, baby showers, confirmations and more.
When it comes to Mexican, it doesn’t have to be fancy to be good — which Dario’s Tex Mex proves. Serving up a range of favorites like tacos, burritos, empanadas and more in an unfussy takeout storefront, this is the kind of meal you eat right out of the styrofoam container as soon as you get home, if not in your car. Just be sure you have some napkins around.
Those leading a plant-based lifestyle can rejoice: Blueberry Cafe Juice Bar and Vegan Grill serves up some of the most delightful vegetarian and vegan-friendly eats in the entire tri-state area, from healthy smoothies to crunchy, refreshing salads, pasta dishes, tacos, and more. A selection of daily soups is also available, and is especially welcome when it’s time to warm up from the cold weather!
Don’t worry! You don’t have to go all the way to New York City’s Chinatown to enjoy some incredible and authentic Chinese cuisine. Newark’s Chinatown Diner is out of the way for those who don’t know town too well — it’s actually tucked inside the local YMCA. But those who put in the work to find it are rewarded with some of the very best Asian food this side of the Hudson, from seafood to fried rice to noodle dishes and more.
Close to the top of any “best of” list of Newark restaurants, Adega Grill is a beloved local spot that serves up traditional Portuguese cuisine, including delicious pork- and beef-based dishes as well as an array of seafood and even vegan options. Along with its food menu, this place is also known for its bar. “Adega,” after all, means “wine cellar” in Portuguese, so you can’t go wrong with anything on its long and noteworthy wine list.
New York City might get all the glory — but there’s an incredible diversity of fun things to do on this side of the river, too. Here are some of the coolest attractions in Newark, New Jersey.
Grab the whole fam for these fun, all-ages-friendly options!
Operating on a 20-acre property and hosting more than 200 species of animals from around the world, Essex County Turtle Back Zoo was voted the best zoo in New Jersey by visitors, not only for its array of wildlife but also for its fun and informative programming. Behind the scenes tours help young and old naturalists alike learn more about how the zoo is maintained, and attractions like mini golf and pony rides make it all worthwhile.
Open for wet and wild fun year round, DreamWorks Water Park is a unique indoor amusement park and swim space — the largest of its type in America. From high-flying water slides to a sprawling 1.5-acre wave pool, there truly is something for every member of the family at this one-of-a-kind destination.
When you’re this close to the city that never sleeps, you never have to, either. Here are some of our favorite options to check out in Newark once the daylight hours have expired.
If you’re looking for a place to take in some incredible entertainment, St. Joseph Plaza is the place to be. This spot is especially well-known for its Friday night jazz club, where you can enjoy a whole evening of world-class jazz musicianship for little or no cover. Not a jazz fan? Keep your eyes peeled for other events and happenings on this famous stage!
Looking to do date night better? Newark Moonlight Cinema is toward the top of our list of things for couples to do in Newark, because, come on — what’s more romantic than a movie night you spend cuddled close to your sweetheart in the comfort and privacy of your own car? Reminisce or experience the drive-in movie life for the first time. Either way, you’ll enjoy this clear, sharp screen and the delicious snacks available along with your movie.
“Cheap” and “Newark” tend not to go in the same sentence together very often — but those in the know know that you can find some fun and affordable things to do in town! Here are our top picks.
It shouldn’t be too surprising that the home of America’s greatest inventor is chock-full of fun and exciting stuff, including experiments Edison himself devised as well as interactive exhibits set up for young inventors to try their own hands at. The Thomas Edison National Historical Park is well worth a visit for any group in Newark, and as an NPS-managed site, its fees are very reasonable: $15 for a seven-day pass, and visitors 15 and under get in free!
Hosting a wide array of art representing a variety of mediums, eras, and nationalities, Newark Art Museum is a world-class destination for amateurs and connoisseurs alike. Along with the permanent and rotating collections, this museum also hosts programs for adults and children to help you get more hands-on experience with your own art, as well as learning more about the great masters who came before us.
We won’t say it’s a secret — but not too many people know that there are actually a whole host of fun and totally free things to do in Newark! Here are some options.
Just a 20 minute drive from downtown Newark, the Staten Island Ferry offers a fun way to get into the city while enjoying a unique view, and today it’s reserved explicitly for pedestrian passengers (which is great, since you won’t have to worry about what to do with your car once you get to Manhattan). Best of all, the Staten Island Ferry service is totally FREE!
Technically located in the neighboring community of Bayonne, the Tear Drop Memorial stands tall, representing all we lost and can never forget on September 11, 2001. The memorial is a great place to go pay one’s respects and reflect, and is open to the public for free, and with free parking available, 24/7.
You don’t have to be Catholic — or religious at all — to enjoy the stunning architectural mastery of the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Visit for a mass or during its open hours to commune with the divine or simply bask in the beauty of this storied edifice, which was finished in 1954 after more than half a century’s worth of construction.
What can we say? Sometimes, there’s nothing for it: you just need a little bit of “me time.” Whether you’re after a rejuvenating massage or a restorative facial, here are the best day spas and salons in the Newark area.
Take a much-deserved break from the hustle and bustle of city life at Rejuve Day Spa, where, as its name suggests, you can enjoy a delicious and revitalizing treatment. Along with several different types of massage, as well as massage packages, this oasis also offers skin care, waxing, manicures and pedicures, eyelash and eyebrow extensions, and more.
LeCache Salon & Spa says it best themselves: “your hair is a reflection of your identity, values, and personality.” Why not make sure it matches up? While they of course focus on cuts and color, this salon and spa also offers a suite of nail care services, facials, massage, and waxing, as well as professional makeup application for big days or just days you want to look fierce.
Looking to get in shape — and stay that way? Here are the best places in Newark to grab a quick sweat session (or six).
The best kinds of workouts really are an evolution in and of themselves, to say nothing about how they can shape your body and mind. Evolution Fitness is one of the best-loved and most comprehensive fitness centers in Newark, offering all the machinery and equipment you need to DIY your fitness adventure, as well as a range of group classes, customized personal training, and so much more.
If you haven’t been to a spin class yet… what are you waiting for? There’s a reason this unique way to workout, which feels more like a trip to a nightclub than a trip to the gym, is sweeping the nation. Although there are many places to choose from, Cyclebar is one of the best, franchise or no. The Montclair location is within easy distance of Newark and staffed with motivating instructors.
One trip to this studio and you, too, will be saying I’m So Yoga — which is to say: so strong, so centered, so calm, so ready. Offering a wide range of both mindful and physically challenging flows and practices, this spot will help you get in touch with your body as well as your soul.
While you clearly don’t have to stray far from Newark to have a good time, there are some wonderful day-trippable options within reach! Consider these destinations for a quick afternoon jaunt or a whole weekend getaway.
Going into Manhattan is one thing… but when’s the last time you checked out what was happening on the other side of the island? Brooklyn is full of culture, history, and incredible contemporary attractions, and has a slightly less frenetic vibe than the most famous borough. Why not take a visit?
Beautiful beaches, historical lighthouses, exciting casino nights, seafood as fresh as you can get… there’s so much more to the Jersey Shore than what America thinks it knows from reality shows. Head on down and take a chance to remember for yourself why this state is so great.
As a final reminder, some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in Newark that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in Newark? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.